The Sailors now have a chance to make the postseason with a win against Riverview High.
Sarasota High football coach Spencer Hodges dropped to his knees and rolled onto his back after practice on Oct. 28.
“I’m exhausted,” Hodges said.
He stayed that way — left arm behind his head, knees bent — for a while. It’s been a season of tests, not just for Hodges, but for the team, and for the most part, both have passed. The Sailors are 6-3 heading into Nov. 1’s regular season finale against rival Riverview High. No matter the outcome of that game, the Sailors have clinched their first winning season in 13 years, something Hodges credits to hard work. But he cautions that the work is not yet done.
“Some people have said (to Hodges) that we have done a ‘180,’” Hodges said. “I would say we have done a ‘120.’ You don’t turn around an entire program in two years. It’s not easy to win in (Class) 7A. Our younger guys don’t know any better, and our older guys have done a nice job of helping them along.”
They have done it on both sides of the ball. Hodges said Sarasota is 17 points away from breaking the program record for points in a season, and the defense has forced 21 turnovers in nine games. As great as it has been to achieve a winning record, Hodges still has some regrets, and believes the team could have performed better in a few of the losses. That just adds to the work he believes remains necessary.
Things still left on the agenda to get from "120" to "180": Details, details, details, a favorite subject of Hodges. The Sailors have to watch more film, he said, and players need to learn to do their job and their job only. If everyone does their own job, the team as a whole should succeed. Positions should be known intricately, he said, and players should work on developing one dominant skill. There are no perfect players at this or the college level, but if you have an area of the game where you consistently win, against everybody, you are an asset. Get a variety of those guys, and you can start to do something special. As Hodges said, there are 16 winning NFL teams each week, and they win 16 different ways. The more options a team has, the better.
Hodges has been doing his part, sometimes leaving the Sailors facilities close to midnight before getting up at 4:30 a.m. to do it again. For as much as he has eyes on the future, he also has eyes on the present. As of Oct. 29, the Sailors were seventh in their Class 6A region’s playoff standings. Eight teams qualify for the postseason. A win against district champion Riverview wouldn’t guarantee a spot — the Florida High School Athletic Association uses a power index algorithm, which takes into account a team’s record, its opponents' records and its opponents' opponents' records, to determine qualification, so there are many factors in play. But it would go a long way.
Hodges said he has been glancing at the standings “way too closely,” but with good reason. A playoff berth would a final proof of concept; a way to show, beyond any doubts, that the program is going places. The players are excited, too. Sarasota senior tight end/long snapper August Drews said the key to beating the Rams is the team’s ability to block for senior running back and South Florida commit Brian Battie, who is averaging 10 yards a carry and has 14 touchdowns.
The game begins at 7:30 p.m. at Riverview High.